Florida teacher pay increase in state budget will be approved, governor says

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday he's signing off on $800 million in this year's budget to raise minimum teacher pay and increase the salaries of veteran teachers in Florida.

That amount marks a $250 million increase in funding for teacher salaries in comparison to last year's budget.

"You want to recruit more people to come in, they got to be able to afford to be able to be teachers," DeSantis said. "What we've been able to do over the last three years is do about $2 billion in increased teacher compensation."

"I think it's a big step in the right direction. I think it's a long time coming," added Don Peace, President of the United School Employees of Pasco, who has been pushing for lawmakers to make this type of change.

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In the past, the funding for teacher raises has largely targeted beginning salaries, leaving 20% for veteran teachers. This budget, however, is a 50-50 split, rewarding long-time teachers more than in previous years.

"Those are the people that are generally the leaders in the school, the mentors to the younger people and those are the people that everybody wants to keep in front of students," said Peace, adding he would like to see other employees, including bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria staff, receive the same type of pay bump.

According to DeSanis, Florida will now be ninth in the country when it comes to starting teacher salaries.

Meanwhile, public school advocates remain critical of the state's per-pupil spending, which is how districts are funded. Florida is 42nd in the U.S. in that category.

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"We were roughly around $5,000 dollars below the national average for per pupil funding and some of the numbers that we see are in line with what we saw in the late 2000s," said Jessica DuBois, Hillsborough Public School Advocates Chair. "That's obviously a concern that it hasn't gone up and in some cases it's kind of gone down or stayed stagnant for that long, especially here in Hillsborough County, where we're the seventh largest district in the country."

The governor said this year's budget includes a record level of per-pupil funding, although it's unclear how that will compare on a national level.